Notes from Jan

Odds and Ends

January 11, 2024

Well, I just returned from my annual appointment with a mammogram machine. I keep wondering at what age is one free to stop this torture?! But Mary Ann, the technician, wished me a Happy New “Yeaah” (She’s from Glosta) and reminded me to book early for 2025. So, she thinks I’ll still be around.

Feeling relieved at her assessment, I stopped by Marshall’s, CVS and Shaw’s Market to pick up a few things. Some needed. Some pure impulse. Like a package of Poinsettia Christmas napkins. It reminded me of Mama and they were 75% off. Which at a final cost of .50 cents is almost like free. Right?

So why thoughts about Mama? It brought me back to DeKalb, Illinois when Daddy and I took a sled to do errands. We trudged happily to the A&P grocery store and the local Five and Dime. Mama stayed home, baking and tending my brother, Dan. Ralph was only a gleam in my Daddy’s eyes back then, according to family lore.

But back to the napkins. Mama made a list, which Daddy tucked into his pocket and never looked at, as far as I saw. He knew Mama’s short and cash conscious list by heart. The usual plus more cardamom for the Julekake, Norwegian Christmas bread, and real butter, no oleo margarine this time. It was Christmas, after all. So at the grocery store Daddy added pickled herring, nuts for cracking, a bag of hard candy, and other Scandinavian treats. He loved providing surprises. Most worked out.

As for the Five and Dime store, Mama needed just four red candles and a package of Christmas Poinsettia napkins. Christmas was mostly homemade. But some things needed to come from stores, like Mama’s Pond’s cold cream and ink for Daddy’s Parker pen.

I was reminded of Pond’s face cream last week when I ventured to Nordstrom’s cosmetic counter to look at some cream for my face. Apart from the high price, I couldn’t bear to slather on the saleswoman’s suggestion. Why? She said, “This will plump up your skin.” Well, the last thing I’m interested in doing to my skin this year is plumping it up. I’ve been there and done that and I prefer less plumping.

So by now you’re probably wondering what’s the point of this odd blog? Well, when looking backwards or forwards life has a fair amount of odds and ends. Snippets of memory from childhood. Odd pieces, people, choices, encounters that somehow over time make up life. My life and yours. And somehow, some way, God shows up and helps us make something worthwhile out of the patchwork pieces, the leftovers.

But even when life makes little or no sense, take a look back. And, I’m pretty sure, you, like I, will see ways God surprised and gave us something not on our list. And the more we get to know and trust God’s heart, the less we’ll think, “The oddest thing just happened.”

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  • Reply Radina Welton January 11, 2024 at 4:51 pm

    Love this! Humor and truth all bound up together. You always make me smile, giggle, or laugh mostly because a lot of those memories are so similar to mine, having been also raised (in my maternal half) with relatives either Norwegian or Swedish. Thanks for another day brightened, Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:07 pm

      OH, you are so welcome, dear Radina. It’s always good to hear from you iin farawary Oregon. Sending along hugs to the Petrocelli family. And may God contginue to surprise you with tender mercy, grace and goodness not on your list.

  • Reply Chris January 11, 2024 at 5:01 pm


    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:14 pm

      Well, if it isn’t my amazing sister-in-love. Happy Ralph picked you. Though I’m guessing you were, in part, an answer to my parents’ prayers so God showed up with someone not on Ralph’s list or yours. For which I am so grateful. And thanks for the “Amen!: Now you’re the one who makes Mama’s Julekaka. And am I ever “tankful”!

  • Reply Dale January 11, 2024 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks Jan. My accident with a TBI reminded me of how important memory is independent of what is remembered. Just the idea of staying connected with life is a gift. I had no consciousness and remembered no sounds or faces or even odors for days and then when I did each one was a gift. I know we tend to think of major events as being pivotal in our lives when even small sounds and the faces of others we don’t even know make us realize we our alive and a child of the most-high God. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:21 pm

      You’re a miracle, my dear brother Dale. Your response to this post is a reminder of the gift of memory and all the ways we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” As one who has worked in the medical field, you appreciate science. And as a Christian, you know that there are miracles that go beyond a medical explanation. I’m grateful, as are your friends and family, that your healing can’t be easily explained. But then, you never could be!

  • Reply Evelyn Morgan January 11, 2024 at 9:59 pm

    Your mention of sledding in DeKalb reminded me of the time we went to the Andreson farm and sledded in the snow. That is such a good memory from way back when. I miss the good old days. No Covid 19, which I am still dealing with since April 2020. Wish I were able to travel like you do. My 2nd husband died last week, but God has provided so many of my wonderful church family to meet my needs. He is so faithful, even though we could sit back and feel sorry for ME. We have a loving Heavenly Father, who is always there in spite of what happens. Thank you Jesus for all you’ve done. THANK YOU LORD!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:27 pm

      Oh, dear Evie, I’m so sorry you’re still dealing with some variation of long Covid. And I’m extra sad to read of the death of your husband. That’s a heavy load. But I suspect, knowing you my dear college roommate, after reading your reponse you continue to see ways God is providing for your needs, bringing surprises that were hot on your list. And thank you for the memory of going sledding at the Andreson’s farm. They were a wonderful family in my Daddy’s church in DeKalb. We had the best Sunday roasts from the beef on their farm. DeKalb corn fed beed. None better to me.

  • Reply Mrs. Linda moore January 11, 2024 at 10:15 pm

    My mama used Pond’s cold cream for years…her skin was beautiful til she went home to be with the Lord at almost 98…now I have it on my nightstand and her watch on my wrist. .. odds and ends really matter..

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:32 pm

      Such an amazing long life! Thank you, dear Linda, for this repsonse. I love picturing you connecting to her as you check the time on your wrist or put cold cream on your face. Odds and ends do matter. Thank you for all the ways you continue to tend women in New England and beyond through your work with women in ministry.

  • Reply Joyce c Ruppell January 12, 2024 at 8:57 am

    Turning into a New decade of life this year has certainly given me pause and time to reflect on my past. I remember the words of a song we often sung “Only one life to offer Jesus my Lord and King, only one tongue to praise thee and of thy mercies sing!”
    Have I been praising and singing enough to demonstrate my gratefulness for my life and my savior? Surley I can do much more after all 70 is the “new” twenty!!
    A very Happy New Year to you Jan and please keep writing and serving!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:36 pm

      So seventy is the new twenty! That’s good news for those of us in our eighties. For sure, I’m grateful you read and responded to this blog posts. And I wish you a very happy “new twenty!” And ,may God show up with surprises not on your list, reminders of His love and care for you.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe January 12, 2024 at 7:01 pm

    Oh I’d love to be in Norway some Christmas and have you with us, Jan! I wonder if there will still be any (stale) Julekake in the stores when we get back to the homeland six weeks from now? Guess it’s time I learn to make it myself. I always enjoy the memories you share of “growing up Norwegian.” Life truly is full of the odd, and it sometimes leads to the greatest ends!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2024 at 9:39 pm

      Me, too, dear Maggie! I’m so happy you and Mike get to return to Stavanger. And I love ;your reminder that often the odd bits and pieces of our life , through God’s grace and mercy, can lead to a “greater end.” Tusen Takk. Go give “em a taste of heaven!

  • Reply Wendy January 13, 2024 at 10:29 am

    I do love reading your posts Jan! I think you should consider doing videos so we can see your beautiful face and hear your beautiful voice! I do imagine hearing you when I’m reading them. Thank you for the joy and the encouragement and the challenges you give us all. Love you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2024 at 8:32 pm

      Well, the next time I hurridly pass by that comsmetics counter I’ll have to remember your assessment of my “beautiful face.” And I thank you , beautiufl Wendy, for all your enouragement through the years I’ve [posted odds and ends of one kind of another.

      • Reply Wendy January 14, 2024 at 6:35 am


  • Reply Alyssa Arnold January 14, 2024 at 11:39 am

    My grandmother used Ponds cream and I use it too! Thanks for sharing your memories.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 14, 2024 at 4:39 pm

      Welcome back, dear Alyssa. I’m happy to hear from you in Utah. How’s your favorite Norwegian doing? I’m sure Pond’s cold cream is good for protecting against the wintry chill of Utah. Happy to bring back a fond memmory of your grandmother. Sending hugs to you and Andrew.

  • Reply Ruth Richert January 15, 2024 at 3:43 pm

    Ever since I started receiving your writing via email, I have wanted to tell you how much your precious Mama meant to me. Margaret Jensen’s books are on my bookshelf, and have been for decades. They are read again and again. I was a mother of young children, struggling with chronic health issues, when those wonderful books entered into my life one by one as they were written. Your mother was one of my favorite mentors and encouragers. Even now, as a grandmother myself, I keep going back to her words and let them feed my soul. Your lovely “Welcome Song” book has joined your mother’s writings on my shelf. I am a stranger to you, but you feel like family. Thank you for sharing your own writings with me now.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 15, 2024 at 6:34 pm

      What a wonderful gift of words to my Mama and me,, dear Ruth. I’m pleased but not surprised that my Mama’s books meant so much to you. They still speak to me, though I heard or experienced many of the stories before I read them. Thank you for reading these posts and for pausing to respond. You encouraged me to keep on writing. Not that I was planning on stopping any time soon. It does me good to reflect on life, past and present, but also to connect with friends and family far and near. And then meet new ones, like you.

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